Ever heard of Yuri Trofimov? Neither had we before Friday, but the Russian?s solo win over the Joux-Plane in the Dauphine bodes more than well for this first year professional.
Just 24 years old and in his rookie season as a pro with Bouygues Telecom, Trofimov was the last survivor from a day long break of eight on the Dauphine?s stage five.
As the eight ground up the Joux-Plane, Trofimov kept a steady pace and a cool head, ignoring a frantic charge by fellow Russian Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2R) that fizzled out almost as quickly as it had started.
Trofimov then changed the pace just enough to force his most persistent pursuer Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval-Scott) to sit up and let him go, just before the summit.
A former MTB U-23 World Champion, Trofimov – who has never ridden in the Alps as a road-racer before – then stayed in control on the nerve-janglingly perilous descent to Morzine.
Despite slowly losing time all the way, Trofimov was still 18 seconds ahead of two far better known riders Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne) at the finish. A remarkable ride for a Russian who had never ridden before in an Alpine road-race, let alone the Dauphine, before this June.
But Trofimov?s fine lone effort was overshadowed by a major power struggle behind between the race favourites, which saw Cadel Evans oust Levi Leipheimer (Astana) for second place behind Valverde.
Leipheimer stayed with the Australian and Spaniard until around half-way up the Joux-Plane climb as it switchbacked relentlessly upwards between Alpine pastures and woodland.
Then a sudden acceleration by Paris-Nice leader Robert Gesink (Rabobank) – by far the strongest rider on the climb even if he lost it slightly on the descent (don?t forget he?s only 22) – left the American reeling.
Sensing Leipheimer was in trouble, Valverde and Evans joined forces to pile on the pressure on the American, a Daupine winner back in 2006.
Come the finish, Leipheimer had lost 1-06 to the duo. If Evans and Valverde ride anything like that again in the Tour, you can bet on them making the running in the Pyrenees and Alps three weeks from now when there are bigger fish to fry.
Of the other big names for the Tour, after a long illness Michael Rogers (High Road) turned in a remarkably strong ride for a second day running, finishing in the same time as Leipheimer. Spain?s invisible Tour de France man, Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) took an impressive fourth place, at 23 seconds, but CSC?s Tour leader Carlos Sastre was a below-expectations 23rd, 2-13 down on Trofimov.
?It?s tomorrow [233 kilometres long and with the Croix de Fer and Toussuire climbs] that really matters though.? Evans, visibly pleased at such a strong mountains ride, said afterwards. ?That?s a real Tour stage.?
DAUPHINE LIBERE STAGE FIVE: RESULTS
1 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Bouygues 125km in 3hr 07min 46sec
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 18sec
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne same time
4 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 23sec
5 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre at 26sec
6 Robert Gesink (Hol) Rabobank
7 Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval-Scott
8 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2R at 44sec
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 1min 24sec
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) High Road same time
27 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 2min 52sec
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 5
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne 17hr 57min 50sec
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 37sec
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 1min 29sec
4 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Bouygues at 2min 16sec
5 Robert Gesink (Hol) Rabobank at 2min 36sec
6 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2R at 3min 03sec
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis at 3min 12sec
8 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3min 15sec
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3min 17sec
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Credit Agricole at 4min 24sec
26 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 7min 15sec
Yury Trofimov looking in control
Cadel Evans leads Alejandro Valverde (in the yellow jersey)
Yury Trofimov wins the first mountains stage of the 2008 Dauphine, and moves up to fourth overall
Cadel Evans crosses the line ahead of Alejandro Valverde to take second on the stage and put over a minute into Levi Leipheimer
Photos by Luc Claessen/ISPA
DAUPHINE LIBERE 2008: STAGE REPORTS
Stage four: Daring descent nets Dessel the win
Stage three: Valverde takes control of Dauphine
Stage two: Hincapie outclasses bunch in Dauphine
Stage one: Valverde takes classy win
Prologue: Leipheimer soars to Dauphine prologue win
NEWS & FEATURES
Analysis: Who is going to win the Dauphine? [June 13]
Analysis: Is Valverde suddenly brilliant against the clock
Evans says Tour within his power
War weary Wegelius battles on in Dauphine
Hushovd: Boonen affair “not good for cycling”
Flat start for Dauphine Libere
Dauphine Libere 2008 preview